Bob Riha Jr/Getty Images
Angelica Florio
February 18, 2017 1:00 pm

Norma McCorvy is likely more recognized under her alias, Jane Roe, which was used in the monumental Supreme Court case Roe v Wade. Her participation in the trial helped the court grant women the right to abortion based on its accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s “freedom of personal choice in family matters.” So yeah, you could say McCorvy played a major part in women’s reproductive rights. Sadly, Norma McCorvy died on February 18th at age 69 in Katy, Texas. Because women are still fighting for their right to choose abortion, especially with politicians’ heightening threats to defund Planned Parenthood, Norma McCorvy’s story is important for everyone to know.

Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, McCorvy gave birth to her first child as a teen after marrying a sheet-metal worker. Her mother raised her first child, but when McCorvy became pregnant again (with a different partner) she decided to put the second child up for adoption. When she became pregnant a third time at age 21, McCorvy decided to pursue an abortion. 

According to The Washington Post, her options were limited:

Women like Ms. McCorvey, who did not have money to travel, had several undesirable options. They could entrust themselves to abortion providers who were not medical professionals or attempt to perform abortions on themselves — decisions that frequently resulted in infection or death — or they could obtain no abortion at all.

McCorvey eventually met lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington who defended her under the pseudonym Jane Roe in the case against Dallas County’s district attorney, Henry Wade. What started as a class-action suit soon progressed to a Supreme Court case, and though McCorvey was never able to get an abortion (by the time the case closed the ‘Roe baby’ had been born and then adopted two years prior), it’s considered one of the most important Supreme Court Cases ever.

Following Roe v Wade, McCorvey worked at abortion clinics and revealed her identity, but she later she revealed that a feeling of exclusion from the Women’s Rights Movement prompted her initially to oppose abortions past a pregnancy’s first trimester (opposing the verdict for which she served as a plaintiff), and later to oppose abortion at any stage of a pregnancy.

Complicated, confusing, controversial and contradictory as she became, the importance of McCorvy’s contribution to the ongoing battle for women’s reproductive rights are incontestable. Her life deeply impacted the lives of many women today in their pursuit of safe and legal abortions, and we honor her for that.

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